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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

being other people « Previous | |Next »
November 14, 2007

A young Honours student of my acquaintance has just finished an ethnographic study of the Supanova Pop Culture Expo. It's a big deal for fans of everything from Buffy to Japanese Manga. Shrek impersonator Joe Hockey would be right at home there. The real enthusiasts get to 'be' their favourite super hero for the duration and they'll go to extremes to get the details just right. They're not the only ones.

My daughter has a Titanic themed work Christmas party to attend and was agonising over which character to adopt for the evening. Her relentlessly hilarious father suggested she go as Kevin Rudder. It was funnier when he suggested she wear a frown and go as the stern, but she risked being mistaken for smiling Phil Ruddock. People pretend to be people they're not every day.

Jane Caro has a piece in New Matilda suggesting that if we really want to know who our political leaders are we should have a close look at their wives. She points out that in the process of playing the stay at home wallflower, Janette has caused some confusion over whether she's Carol Brady or Saruman, keen supporter of Sauron the Dark Lord.

Caro thinks Therese Rein resonates better with thoroughly modern Australia. She's a successful business woman who doesn't need her husband's name to know who she is. We won't be getting any prehistoric, white picket fence, Hyacinth Bucket pretensions from Therese. She's the political wife equivalent of Xena, Warrior Princess.

Maybe, maybe not. As the people at Supanova know very well, we read people on the basis of appearance and accessories as much as, if not more than, on the basis of their actions. Especially if we've got nothing else to work with.

Janette wears pastels, but the lines are militant. There's no give or freedom of movement and certainly no relaxed and comfortable. That's about all we get. She's entitled to her privacy, but suspicion is the price you pay for being mysterious.

Therese goes for the adjusted business look, where lengths and widths are variations on the traditionally straight business lines. Her hair is chaotic and the family china is a delicate floral pattern. She gives the impression that she's going to chuck off her shoes at the first opportunity and indulge in a bit of slouching, or maybe even an undignified sprawl.

John and Kevin have gone for the clone theme, although we have been treated to what could well be the most spectacular tie competition in Australian history. I know there's a science to this tie business, but I'm not sure we're supposed to be either mesmerised or blinded by shininess. Unfortunately, they draw the line at the novelty tie, which is a waste in my opinion.

John has recently been suspected of botox injections, fake tan, vitamin B injections if not steroids, and some pretty strong treatment for arthritis, whatever that entails. He'd be a walking cocktail of dubious substances. Sylvester Stallone?

Kevin is Tin Tin whether he is or not. His work experience, nerdy reputation, and appearance all dovetail into a nice, consistent package. He looks like, and has apparently lived the life of, a goody two shoes do gooder.

Observing the cosmetic dimensions of politicians is a shallow excercise, all things considered. But we're about to choose who is going to determine the shape of our country. It's reasonable to expect us to use whatever evidence we have at our disposal but they're as carefully constructed as the Supanova enthusiasts.

Who the hell are these people we're electing?

We're being asked to trust them to run things, and we're also going to have to live with them being beamed into our living rooms every night. Tin Tin and Xena, or Carol Brady and Rocky Balboa?

| Posted by Lyn at 1:27 PM | | Comments (4)


there is a difference between the political persona and the person for both Howard and Rudd and Janette and Therese.

Howard has been very good in giving the apearance that his poltical persona is the same as the person. It's mask. He puts it on and off. I've seen him do it in person.

Both Rudd and his wife have impressed this writer exponentially as to their level of conduct over recent months. And Rein looks now to be capable of matching, or even surpassing Margaret Whitlam and Hazel Hawke as an outstanding contributor in her own right. This is in contrast to being a rent- seeker of truly "militant" proportions, like her predecessor.
I think Rein has been resilient enough to get past the imposition of her husband's career and has moved beyond mere acceptance to an actual embrace of the idea of the employ of her formidable and considerable talents as a supportive and likely dynamic first lady. There is youth and flexibility there; a suppleness that is now missing elsewhere.


I suspect that the persona thing is fairly well understood by the public, which is why we're so desperate for those little insights you get when politicians slip up. Or what we can infer about them from their wives. Not much different from any other celebrity in that respect.

So what's your impression of the real Howard hmmm? Do tell.


I tentatively agree with you that Rein will be an interesting and more dynamic Mrs PM than we've seen previously. Margaret and Hazel both managed to establish their own fan base distinct from their husbands and it's not stretching things too far to say they're viewed with affection. Especially Hazel. Annita did reasonably well too.

Interesting that by comparison Liberal wives don't seem to do much. I don't remember anything about Tammy except her accent.

Tammy rose to great heights by walking out of a live television interview when they asked mean questions. Margaret Whitlam just grew to a great height. Hazel Hawke and Anita Keating each displayed considerable strength of character and a sense of public duty despite not enjoying the limelight.

I think, all things considered, the Australian public has been kind to Janette Howard. She has been largely spared the vicious personal attacks that might have come her way in other countries. Therese Rein will unfortunately not be so lucky; the smears have already started and will no doubt continue relentlessly as long as Rudd holds public office.